Many of us may have celebrated the end of the COVID pandemic a little too soon. Despite a two-month decline, the virus has been on the rise again thanks to widely released subvariants of the Omicron variant. Just last week, infections increased by more than 18% in the United States, while hospitalizations have increased by more than 24%, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As infections increase, more mitigation measures may be needed once again as we continue to fight the coronavirus. Read on to find out what a virus expert recommends we do now.
Not only have infections increased by more than 50% in the past two weeks, but coronavirus cases are also increasing in almost every state, according to PBS. During a May 21 interview with the broadcaster, the White House’s COVID response director Ashish JhaMD, discussed the current state of the virus in the United States, acknowledging that the cases are even higher than many of us expected at this point.
“I think if we step back and look at where we are in this pandemic, obviously there are a lot of infections. Two years later, I don’t think anyone wants to hear that. It’s frustrating,” said Jha told the host. Geoff Bennett. “I mean, the virus is not over.”
However, the rise in infections doesn’t mean we’ve regressed to March 2020. According to Jha, the United States has built up quite a bit of immunity over time, largely through vaccinations and boosters. This has helped protect people and stopped hospitalizations and deaths from rising too high even as cases rise. But to ensure safety over time, we need to track vaccinations, as well as continue to “work to improve our vaccine.” [and] making sure we have enough treatments,” Jha said.
“I think complacency can get us in a lot of trouble,” he explained. “But if we stay active, stay focused, keep fighting this virus, I think we can keep Americans safe.”
While the emergence of Omicron sub-variants has brought back a slight increase in coronavirus cases, virus experts are worried about the future. White House COVID Advisor Antoine FauciMD, previously warned that there was potential for another push in autumn.
“People are tired of this pandemic, we understand that. Unfortunately, the virus is not done with its job,” Jha told Bennett. “As we look at the fall and winter, what I’m paying attention to right now is watching the virus evolve. We have to be very careful about what happens if we see a new wave of infections, we want to be ready with a new generation of vaccines, treatments.”
Mask mandates are no longer in place in the United States, including the federal mask requirement for transportation, which was lifted last month. But masking is probably a good idea as numbers grow, even if there are no ordinances requiring it, experts say. The CDC still recommends that people in areas with medium or high COVID transmission wear masks when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Since May 19, 45% of the American population is currently in an area with medium or high community transmission, CDC director Rochelle WalenskiMD, recently tweeted.
“I’ve always believed … that masking is an important part of keeping, you know, the number of infections down,” Jha told Bennett. “And I think we’re going to want to get this message out to people that in areas with high infection numbers, masking will be an important tool in keeping infections down and getting — allowing us to get through the fall into winter without substantial disturbance.”
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